Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Stats

It's the very, very end of the A to Z challenge. I'll finish with what looks like a bit of a cheat, but does have an actual idea behind it.

"Z for Stats" was not, in fact, my cheat; gamers of a certain age might remember it as the last keyboard command from the Ultima IV Computer Role Playing Game. Today with high-resolution graphics, better input devices, and even better sound there are very few constraints on what a game-writer can do. Years ago we didn't have any of this, so game designers had to operate under constraints of technology including graphics, sound, and input interfaces. The remarkable thing is that many of them were still able to create an immersive  gaming environment and a compelling experience within the constraints of the technology. In fact, I'd argue that working within those constraints created a deeper and richer experience than many modern games with fewer such limitations. Being restricted to keyboard commands, for example, means having to choose which 26 things you want a character to be able to do, and then trying to shoehorn them into the alphabet in a reasonable enough way that the player won't go scurrying for the quick reference guide every ten minutes. Some - O)pen, T)alk were obvious, while others J)immy lock or Y)ell "Giddyup" or "Whoa" (to make your horse go faster or slower) were certainly among the game's quirks.

What does all of this have to do with a writing or technology blog? The same concept comes up in writing. This A to Z challenge was all about fitting thoughts into the artificial constraint of the alphabet. Formal poetry, from sonnets to Haiku, is about fitting ideas and images into a specific meter and rhyme. These often require a specific kind of thought and care with each choice, leading to a very different work than one would have free-form. I very much enjoyed taking this trip through the alphabet with you, and likely shared a handful of things that I'd not have absent prompting from the alphabet. Was it, therefore, a success? I'll say yes.

Now that we finished the April challenge I'll step down from the daily schedule, but will be back later this week with either technology or writing. I hope some of you who found me through A to Z will stick around to see where we go next.

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